No sooner has one battle ended for young hunter-turned-reluctant hero Eragon and his dragon Saphira, than another begins. For the world has become an ever more dangerous place, filled with uncertainty and potential betrayal around every corner. The Empire now hunts for Eragon and Saphira with every resource it can muster, and Eragon can no longer stay with the organization of rebels known as the Varden. He must learn to master his gifts as one of the legendary Riders, learn to properly wield the magic that flows through him, and strengthen his bond with Saphira. So with a small select group of allies, he travels to Ellesmera, the homeland of the elves, to embark upon the next stage in his education. Little does he know how he’ll be tested, trained, and ultimately changed by his time there. Worse yet, he’ll do it without the aid of a dear friend, who falls early on due to treachery and violence. Can he overcome his limitations to become a true Rider, in time to save the Varden from annihilation?
Meanwhile, Eragon’s cousin, Roran, has a war of his own to wage when the Empire’s forces threaten his home of Carvahall. What begins as a simple act of defiance soon turns into an epic struggle and a desperate journey across the land, molding a man into a leader, and a small town into a near-legendary force to be reckoned with. But will Roran find what he seeks, and will the people of Carvahall escape with their lives when the Empire comes calling? Ultimately, Eragon and Roran’s paths must cross, but will it be as friends, or enemies? And what awful truths about Eragon’s past will finally be revealed?
Eldest continues the story of Eragon, Saphira, Murtagh, Arya, Nasuada, and the Varden in proper epic style. Like all good middle books in a trilogy, it raises as many questions as it answers, moves the hero further along his path of self-discovery and maturation, and places all the pieces so they’ll be ready for the final book. It’s easy to look at the Inheritance trilogy and pick out all of Christopher Paolini’s numerous influences, especially Tolkien, Joseph Campbell, and Star Wars. But while Paolini may show his influences, he’s not overly beholden to them, taking old and familiar elements (dragons, elves, dwarves, prophecies, an evil empire, a valiant rebellion, an ageless master, and so forth) and weaving them into a highly-enjoyable story. In some ways, the predictability of various twists is almost refreshing; it proves that Paolini respects the genre conventions he’s working with. That he can do so and still turn out a good, solid story is even better. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the last book in the series, to see if he can wrap it up properly.
Originally posted on SF Site, 2006